Weekend Jolt: Seattle Times Calls Cantwell Opponent's Obamacare Claims Off Base

By Afternoon Jolt April 23, 2012

First-term state Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-6, Spokane), the GOP candidate who's challenging incumbent US Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), took a beating in the Seattle Times' "Truth Needle" column this weekend.

Baumgartner sent out an email to supporters criticizing Obamacare as the "government taking over" health are, accusing the plan of taking away patients' choice of doctors and treatments. Baumgartner also warned that bureaucrats would be making health care decisions for patients.

Saying most of his email accusations have been "debunked," that he "distorts the facts," and that his claims are "a stretch," the Times said Baumgartner's email was "mostly false."

The Times points out that while the health care exchange, which will, in fact, have a bevy of plans, comes with regulations—caps on out-of-pocket expenses for patients, coverage of prescription drugs, and no co-pays for preventive care, and must cover maternity and emergency care—the private market will design the coverage. "While the law specifies insurance plans must cover prescription drugs, for example, it is up to the carriers to decide what medicines they will cover and at what level."

(The thing he got right is that there is a mandate on everyone to buy insurance—which is at the center of the US Supreme Court case against the law.)

As for the claim about government bureaucrats, the Times slams Baumgartner:

Finally, Baumgartner repeats a charge made by many Republican candidates that the health law allows bureaucrats to make treatment choices. This claim, too, has been found by fact checkers to be false, or at least highly misleading, depending on the variation.

Baumgartner said he was referring in part to the Independent Payment Advisory Board that will have the power to curb Medicare's spending growth if it exceeds targets. The board's 15 members by law won't be bureaucrats but rather doctors, employers, insurers and consumer advocates who will serve as executive-branch officers.

In addition, the board is explicitly barred from rationing care or reducing Medicare benefits. It will have nothing to do with approving treatments for individual patients. It can recommend legislation to reduce Medicare payments or other options to reduce spending but can't dictate, for example, what brand-name drugs or what type of prosthetics won't be covered.

Congress has the final say in adopting the board's proposals to trim payments to providers, or passing its own plan.

Another "unelected board of bureaucrats" Baumgartner had in mind is the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. The task force is actually a long-standing independent group of nonfederal experts in primary care, including pediatricians and gynecologists, who make recommendations about evidence-based medicine.
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